State Science Tests Show Gains At AE/MS

By Jane Slayton, AE/MS Principal

Fourth, eighth, and eleventh grade students in New Hampshire are administered a science test every spring. The fourth and eighth grade students at AE/MS participate in the testing, as do the eleventh grade students from Andover who attend Merrimack Valley High School.

Results of the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) Science Tests were released this fall. NECAP is a collaborative involving three states: New Hampshire, Vermont, and Rhode Island. NECAP science results are used primarily for program evaluation, school improvement, and public reporting. Achievement level results are used in the state accountability system required under No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

The science assessment is designed to measure what students know and are able to do in the areas of Earth and Space Science, Physical Science, Life Science, and Inquiry.

Fifty-three percent of New Hampshire students scored proficient or better in science at grade four. At AE/MS, 61% of the students scored proficient or better. In grade eight, 32% of New Hampshire students scored proficient or better, and at AE/MS, 53% of the eighth grade students scored proficient or better.

Andover and the rest of New Hampshire now have several years of results that will help with decision making when it comes to improvement of the science curriculum and instruction.

Andover teachers of science remain confident that the Andover science curriculum is comprehensive in scope and delivers solid instruction. The AE/MS science curriculum is continually reviewed at the local level. School administration is very pleased with the science education the students receive at AE/MS. Science is reportedly a favorite subject of many Andover students.

It is important to note that the NECAP is only one measure of academic progress, and a single annual assessment is not a sufficient way of measuring overall student success.

Overall the Andover Elementary/Middle School faculty and administration have confidence in the structure and rigor of the science curriculum and regularly receive positive feedback from the high schools that receive Andover students.

Those not familiar with the Science NECAP might find it interesting to read an inquiry task for fourth and eighth grade students. The inquiry tasks are designed to measure a student’s ability to make connections, express ideas, and provide evidence of scientific thinking. Inquiry skills are skills that all students should have in addition to knowing the content from the three domains of science.

The Grade 4 inquiry task, Conductors and Insulators, required students to investigate the electrical conductivity of various materials. Using a circuit tester, students determined if each material conducted electricity. Students analyzed the results to determine which materials were conductors and which materials were insulators. Students worked with partners to complete the task and then answered questions on their own.

The Grade 8 inquiry task, Ocean Currents, required students to use data to construct conclusions about how heat can be transferred. Students analyzed ocean temperature and air temperature data to describe patterns and relationships shown by each. Students used the data to determine why there is a significant ocean temperature difference between two locations – Crescent City,    California and Woods Hole, Massachusetts – located at the same latitude.